Six in 10 voters likely to cast a ballot in the California Democratic primary on March 3 support one of the moderate candidates for president – with former Vice President Joe Biden leading at 24% — compared to four in 10 voters who support a progressive — with Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 23% — according to the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California.
Despite California’s rep among East Coast politerati and bloviators as a bastion of steaming socialism, voters actually self-identify almost neatly into thirds: 35% liberal, 29% middle-of-the-road and 32% conservative. California leans a bit left – but it’s not Berkeley everywhere.
Six in 10 Californians also believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health coverage but they’re evenly split between those who want a single national health insurance system and those who would have a mix of private and government insurance programs.
Beat Trump Beats “Positions.” More than half the Democratic primary voters – 55% — say the most important thing they’re looking for in a presidential candidate is who can defeat Donald Trump in 2020, compared to about a third – 36% — who want a candidate whose positions on the issues comes closest to theirs.
Even more important is the difference on this question by age. More than half — 54% — of voters age 18-44 want a candidate close to them on the issues compared to 36% who just want to win. But among older voters – those with experience – a whopping 67% of voters just want to beat Trump, compared to a mere 25% who say they want a candidate who shares their views.
That is a huge generational difference in what voters are looking for in a candidate.
The horserace. These are some key findings in the November PPIC survey:
In the Democratic presidential race – with a 5% margin of error – it’s Biden 24%, Warren 23%, Sen. Bernie Sanders 17% and home state Sen. Kamala Harris sucking wind at 8%. So much for the Favorite Daughter Candidacy.
PPIC didn’t make much of a trend line from its last survey in September, in part because the universe of voters was changed slightly, this time more closely seeking likely voters who intend to take a Democratic ballot in March. But given the margin of error, the results weren’t much changed; in September it was Warren 23%, Biden 22%, Sanders 21% and Harris 8%. So, in November, Biden went up slightly, Warren stayed the same and Sanders dropped a bit.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg pulls 7%, entrepreneur Andrew Yang 5% and then Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar and billionaire activist Tom Steyer all at 1%.
Not only is the home state senator not in the top tier of the race, but in her own region — the liberal San Francisco Bay Area — she’s got a pathetic 9%, behind Warren at 28%, Biden at 22% and Buttigieg at 10%.
The regional standings are of interest because in order to get any of California’s huge cache of 495 delegates on March 3, a candidate must win at least 15% in a congressional district.
Biden and Warren meet or exceed that threshold in each of the three regions PPIC used to analyze the vote — Los Angeles, other Southern California and SF Bay Area. Sanders has 24% in Los Angeles but falls below 15% in the other two regions. (Amazing factoid: Sanders has just 8% in the SF Bay Area.) Harris meets the threshold in none of the three regions (although you’d have to assume she might hit at least 15% in a couple of Bay Area congressional districts and get a few delegates).
Why is Biden ahead? The former Veep got 31% of the voters age 45 and over; 30% of the voters with incomes under $40,000, 29% of the moderate-to-conservative voters, 28% of the Southern California voters outside of Los Angeles and 27% of Latinos.
Warren’s strongest backing is 30% among voters aged 18-44. The problem for her is that those voters don’t turn out in the numbers that do older voters, who prefer Biden. Warren’s also got 29% of the liberals, 28% of the Bay Area and of whites and 27% of those with incomes of $80,000 or more.
Why that’s good for Biden? He’s got those reliable older voters — there are about four times as many of them in PPIC’s sample of likely voters. And the younger voters are split between Warren (30%) and Sanders (29%).
Methodology. PPIC surveyed 1,711 California adult residents in English and Spanish, including 1,200 interviewed on cell phones and 511 interviewed on landline telephones November 3–12. The margin of error for all adults is ±3.3 percent; for the 1,405 registered voters, the sampling error is ±3.6 percent; for the 1,008 likely voters, it is ±4.3 percent; for the 682 Democratic primary likely voters (including Democrats and independent voters who say they will vote in the Democratic primary), it is ±5.1 percent.